We live in the three-pound universe between our ears, but it’s surprising how little most people know about themselves. How we see the world develops from our earliest years as our innate, inborn tendencies (our temperament) interact with our experiences and the environment to build underlying patterns of thinking, emotions, and other characteristics that become what is commonly called our personality.[1] The Breckenridge Enneagram™ has an interdependent focus on both innate-inborn and contextual factors.[2] On this view, the formation of personality is both: a) an inside-out process where the innate, inborn tendencies of our temperament predispose us to behaviors and emotional responses through which we try to influence others, and b) an outside-in process where people, organizations, social structures, and the culture we grow up in, teach us how to see ourselves, others, and the world through the See-Do-Get Process®. In other words, the origin of the nine Enneagram types is not reducible to just a “personality defense system” that results from early childhood wounding as argued by some authors, nor is it a complete map of the human psyche as claimed by many traditional Enneagram teachers.[3]

As Linda Berens points out in her article, A History of Psychological Type and Temperament, there was an entire movement of psychologists who developed personality typologies during the 1920s based on schools of thought that were prevalent in Europe at the end of the 18th Century.[4] In addition, G.I. Gurdjieff’s work during this time period was later shaped into the traditional model of the Enneagram by Oscar Ichazo in the 1950s and 1960s and Claudio Naranjo in the 1970s.[5] These parallel traditions were part of a larger intellectual context from which the modern discipline of personality type theories emerged as the six traditions listed below.[6]

  • Jungian models
  • Temperament models
  • Primary emotions models
  • Five-Factor models
  • Circumplex models
  • Traditional Enneagram models

But the tendency has been for each tradition to view their model as describing “the” human personality, and over time “type communities” (sub-cultures) have emerged around these bodies of knowledge that claim to define and reify what psychological reality really is. As Thomas Kuhn points out, one of the hallmarks of such sub-cultures or disciplinary paradigms is the emergence of a highly specialized and complex language that is often impenetrable to those outside that community of theorists and practitioners.[7] The letters and numbers associated with the type-communities listed above are textbook examples of the emergence of disciplinary paradigms with specialized and complex languages.

Contrary to the tendency of these type communities to view their model as describing “the” human personality, my own view is that the totality of the human personality is greater than the sum of all possible personality typologies and that each of these disciplinary paradigms has defined only a “slice” or sub-set of the broader psychic reality of personality. Consequently, I am a strong proponent of becoming multi-lingual and using a portfolio of personality assessment tools. More specifically, I use the Breckenridge Type Indicator™ (BTI™) to help clients identify and verify their Enneagram type.[8] Some type professionals have had reservations about using the Enneagram because they have not had a psychometrically validated instrument with reliability and validity in the same range as the Majors PT-Elements™, Majors PTI™, or the MBTI® tool. The BTI™ meets this psychometric challenge and is the most reliable and valid on-line Enneagram assessment tool available. The overall average Chronbach’s Alpha reliability for the nine Enneagram types is .93; the overall test-retest reliability using the Pearson r product moment correlation is .88; and the overall average hit rate (accuracy) as determined by Cohen’s d effect size scale means analysis is 88.2%.[9]

I also use the Majors PT-Elements™ in combination with Linda Berens’ model of the traditional sixteen types viewed through the lenses of Temperament, Interaction Styles™, and Cognitive Dynamics to help clients identify and verify a broad spectrum of characteristics that emerge from their personality type.[10] The combined explanatory power of the Enneagram, 16 types, Temperament, Interaction Styles™, and Cognitive Dynamics provides a deep and profound set of data for working with clients in leadership development and coaching because this combination of tools helps describe within-type differences. In other words, it helps to describe why four different individuals with ESTJ, INTJ, ENFP, and ISFP preferences can all be overly preoccupied with being powerful, perfect, helpful, original or any of the other Tacit Creeds of the nine Enneagram types. Bottom Line: becoming multi-lingual and using both the BTI™ and Majors PT-Elements™ instruments together provides a more complete picture of a client’s overall personality preferences than using either instrument alone.

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[1] I am using the word “temperament” here in the common use of the word – meaning the combination of cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motivational aspects of human beings that is their innate, inborn disposition toward being who they really are. I am not using the word “temperament” in the sense that David Keirsey used it to mean a specific typology of four temperaments. Rather, our “temperament” is the psycho-biological part of the human organism from which our personality emerges over time. See David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, Please Understand Me, (Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1984), and Linda Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to the Four Temperaments, (Huntington Beach, CA: Telos Publications, 2006).
[2] Mark Bodnarczuk, The Breckenridge Enneagram: A Guide to Personal and Professional Growth, (Boulder, CO: Breckenridge Press, 2009).
[3] Helen Palmer, The Enneagram, (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1991), and Pat Wyman, Three Keys to Self-Understanding, (Gainesville, FL: CAPT, 2001), pp. 4-5.
[4] Linda Berens, A History of Psychological Type and Temperament, (Huntington Beach, CA: Telos Publications, 2002).
[5] Claudio Naranjo, Character and Neurosis, (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB, Inc, 1994), p. xv ff.
[6] A.A. Roback, The Psychology of Character: With a Survey of Temperament, (New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2007).
[7] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 20 ff.
[8] The BTI™ is published by the Breckenridge Institute®.
[9] Mark S. Majors, and Mark Bodnarczuk, The BTI™ Psychometric Report, (Boulder, CO: Breckenridge Press, 2007).
[10] The Majors PT-Elements™ is published by the Breckenridge Institute®. Also see Mark S. Majors, Dichotomies for Dyads, (Branford, FL: Handbook Press, 2008), and Linda V. Berens, An Introduction to Interaction Styles, (Huntington Beach, CA: Telos Publications, 2001).

**Originally published in the Winter 2010 Edition of the APT Bulletin